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Working with a ghostwriter

Working with a Ghostwriter – 3 Ways to Start the Process to Success

Working with a ghostwriter is ultimately a business relationship. No matter how friendly the exchanges, the outcome is that you are paying someone to tell your story. Make sure the process culminates in the book you want.

In working with a ghostwriter as in all business relationships, it is always easiest to take care of business matters at the start of the process. Here are three guidelines to keep in mind when establishing how you and your ghostwriter will collaborate.

1. Is the ghostwriter working for hire or does s/he have a stake in the product?

A for-hire writer is paid by the hour or by the project and has no legal authorship rights. A writer who is working with a stake in the project does have legal rights as do the inheritors of that writer on his/her death. While sharing the rights is a way of reducing the up-front expense, it does mean that if you are successful at marketing the book you will have to share in the profits. This is more of an issue if you are famous or are writing about your relationship with someone famous. Obviously, fame will assist in marketing. Conversely, most ghostwriters will be reluctant to work for a stake if you are not famous.

At The Memoir Network, we ask for no legal rights to the manuscript. Our ghosts write on a for-hire basis. You hold all rights.

2. How will the authorship of the book be attributed on the jacket?

This is important if you are using the book to establish your credibility as an expert and thus promoting your career. Listing a co-author on the book’s cover may lessen your perceived expertise. Most ghostwriters insist on a minimal acknowledgment within the book. If the name of the ghost does not appear on the cover, the writer uses this mention to prove to other clients that s/he was the co-author. The mention may read like this: “I want to thank XYZ for all his invaluable assistance in writing this book.” Work this out with the writer early. It will make him/her feel more comfortable.

At The Memoir Network, we will defer to your wish. We do not insist on having the co-author’s name on the book cover—although we do sometimes ask. We do request an acknowledgment within the book. We believe working with a ghostwriter ought to be easy.

3. Will the writer return to you all the digital documentation of the book?

With files of the text and artwork, you will be able to go into reprint without contacting the author (if you do not share the rights). It’s entirely possible that in a year or two you will have lost contact with the writer and not be able to locate the files. Be sure you have them in hand. Some writers may insist on keeping the files. This is not to your advantage.

At The Memoir Network, we always turn over to you all the digital files we have produced. This allows you maximum freedom of choice once our time working together is over.

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7 Responses to Working with a Ghostwriter – 3 Ways to Start the Process to Success

  1. Terry Lee July 2, 2010 at 9:37 PM #

    I have started the memoir a couple of months ago. Done about four paragraphs. I get ideas and write them down, Many would be several pages, once I get into them. Here’s the problem. I don’t have a regular writing time each day. I’m retired and don’t get up early unless I have a voluteer activity that requires it. Morning would be best I think. How do I get myself to get up at 6AM and write for an hour every day?

    All of what I have written so far has been when the mood strikes me in the afternoon or late evening.

    I would love to hear from somebody who has solved this problem.

    Terry Lee

  2. atlee2 July 5, 2010 at 4:36 PM #

    How do I find the best time to write every day?


  3. atlee2 July 5, 2010 at 9:10 PM #

    Thanks, I didn’t know if the first post went thru, so I sent a 2nd. Can others respond as well?

    Thanks again.


  4. turningmemories July 5, 2010 at 5:11 PM #


    I think you will find the best times of day by observing when you write best. Keep in mind: 1) when you have available time, 2) when it feels good to write, and 3) when you are the most productive.
    Once you have a sense of the answer that would work for you, make an appointment with yourself to write at that time for a certain length of time and do not revisit that decision. At the scheduled time, sit down and begin to write.
    If you feel like writing, go ahead and write. If you don’t feel like writing, go ahead and write. Get the point?
    I presume you did not revisit the decision to go to work every day. Why revisit the decision to write? How can that be useful to you? It will only lead to anxiety.
    Let me know if this helps.

  5. Louise July 16, 2010 at 11:02 AM #

    Your suggestion to retain the first draft is a most excellent one. So often, the pain, or the happiness, or other real emotions come through in that first draft. That doesn’t mean you must retain that draft forever, but until you get the sense, the flavor of exactly what you wish to say, it is an important thing to remember.

    Also, to comment on Terry Lee’s post…
    Finding a good time of day at which you will be consistent is most helpful if you are serious about your writing project. I often find that, when I don’t set a time to write, I am all over the place, and not as productive. If you enjoy a hearty cup of coffee in the morning, tell yourself that by the time you have finished that cup, you will have written a page.
    Do you journal? A book by Julia Cameron called “The Artist’s Way” is wonderful. She suggests that you handwrite three “morning pages” each day. About anything. Perhaps you’re still fuming about the way someone treated you, or you’re elated by how well your baking event went, or maybe you are just intrigued by the turtle crossing the road (or the spider spinning its web in a corner of your house that you haven’t yet cleaned). Whatever comes to mind, for three pages, is what goes on the page. Her theory is that, by the time you are done, all the “junk” will be out of the way, and you will be ready to really write. I think it works quite well!
    Hope some of that helps. Just find what works for you, and…write on!

  6. Pam Bell July 17, 2010 at 2:20 PM #

    One of my problems scheduling a time to write was that I thought I needed a big chunk of time. This was both a real obstacle and a convenient means of procrastination. “Well,” I’d say, “I’d do some writing, but I really don’t have time.” But I’d have time to check my email, etc.
    Then I discovered Natalie Goldberg’s book “Old Friend from Far Away – the Practice of Writing Memoir”. Many of her writing prompts include a time limit of no more than ten minutes. “Tell me about silence. Go. Ten minutes”. Ten minutes (some prompts are only 3 mins.)…anyone can find a 10 minute slice of time.
    Suddenly I was writing and writing and writing. Often, I’d get started, thinking I’d just write for the requisite ten minutes, and I’d find myself still writing 20 mins. later.
    At first glance, many of Goldberg’s prompts seem silly: 3 mins. on Jello? But my 3 mins. turned into 15, and led me to memories of my grandfather and musing about my feelings about aging. If taken as jumping off places, the prompts can develop into some meaningful pieces of your memoir.
    You can also use this technique with your Core Memory List. Instruct yourself to write just a few minutes about any memory on the list. You can always go back and expand, but you’ll have gotten something down and started the process. “3 mins. Go!”

  7. joyce garofolo August 23, 2010 at 4:15 PM #

    I am so glad to see that I have not been the only one who struggles with time. The Artists’ Way and Old Friend From Far Away are two books which have helped me conquer the lack of time. I believe the root of the problem, at least for me was feeling that my writing could not be on the top of my to do list. There are always so many other things to take care of, as well as family member needs. Then I thought about when I had worked for others, and it would never occur to me to call a boss and say, “I need to take care of a family issue, so I won’t be in today.” No, I needed to schedule my family issues into a time slot other than the work day. So, I decided to treat my writing like a career and show up whether I felt like it or not. How many times have we gone to work for someone else when we did not FEEL like it, and still do the job.

    So, how much more important is my memoir? Also, in my case I needed to get over the feeling that writing was not work. As a child I was raised to be doing things, and reading and writing were considered leisure time activities. So now I have to shift gears and tell myself that my vacation is my vocation, and get on with it. It has helped me to get more research and writing accomplished and to realize that I am not the only one that this happens to.

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